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Topeak Wedge DryBag Waterproof Saddle Bag

You might not carry a lot in your saddle bag, but I imagine that whatever you do carry you would like to keep dry. I ride in all weather conditions and that means I spend more than my fair share of time cycling in the rain. Most seat bags will keep their contents dry during a light shower, but very few bags are really waterproof. A few months ago I put a Topeak Wedge DryBag waterproof saddle bag on the bike I use to ride in the rain and my opinion of this bag can be summed up in one word: Awesome!

Topeak Wedge DryBag Waterproof Seat Bag

Topeak Wedge DryBag Waterproof Saddle Bag

The Topeak Wedge DryBag is constructed from 210 denier and 420 denier nylon waterproof fabric and has sonically welded seams to keep the rain out. Not only does this bag keep the rain out, but it is incredibly easy to clean up. I sometimes ride off-road trails during rainstorms and the knobby tires on my mountain bikes kick up a lot of mud. Washing muddy clothes is pretty easy (I have a great wife), but getting the mud off most saddle bags is nearly impossible. If your Topeak Wedge DryBag gets muddy you can clean it off with a water hose as you are rinsing off your bike (you don’t even have to take it off your bike).

Review View Of The Topeak Wedge DryBag

Roll Closure On The Topeak Wedge DryBag

The zippers on most seat bags allow water to seep into your bag and they also get clogged up by mud. Instead of zippers the Topeak Wedge DryBag uses a roll closure with a Velcro strip, and after the flaps are rolled up the bag is secured with a buckle on both sides. Topeak offers this bag with two different mounting styles: nylon straps that wrap around your seat rails or Topeak’s QuickClick™ System that makes it easier to attach or remove the bag. The rear flap on the bag has a clip so you can attach your favorite taillight.

The DryBag comes in three different sizes. The smallest bag has a 36 cubic inch (.6 L) storage capacity; the medium bag has 61 ci (1 L) capacity; the large bag has 91.5 ci (1.5 L) of interior space.

The Topeak Wedge DryBag is available at most bicycle shops and retails for between $40 to $50, depending on the size and mounting style. This product also comes with a limited 2-year warranty against manufacturer defects (keep your receipt).

 

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SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Rear Mudguard

If you own a Fat Bike like a Surly Pugsley or the Salsa Mukluk then you probably know what it is like to finish a ride covered with mud from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Being covered with snow is not as bad since it is a lot easier to clean up than mud. We get dirty not because we love playing in the mud so much, but we really don’t have any choice. Until someone makes fenders that will give decent coverage over a 4″ wide tire we are going to get dirty. In the mean time, unless your make your own fenders, the SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Mudguard Rear Bicycle Fender is probably the best rear fender you are going to find.

SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Mudguard Rear Bicycle Fender

SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Rear Mudguard

The SKS Grand M.O.M. fender is 19″ long by 4″ wide (and in one spot it narrows to only 3.5″ wide). While this fender is perfect for either a 26″ or 29″ mountain bike, it is still a bit narrow for a true Fat Bike. However, it does a decent job at stopping the mud from being thrown all over your back. This fender should fit on just about any mountain bike and you can put it on or take it off in just a couple of seconds. It has a quick-release power strap that will secure it tightly to nearly any size seat tube, and it is adjustable to just about any angle your bike needs. This fender is made of plastic and weights only 182g.

If you are looking for something to keep your bottom bracket and crank sprockets clean, then you can attach a SKS Mud-X light dirtboard to your down tube. The SKS Mud-X attaches to your down tube with rubber fasteners and includes two foamed rubber pads to avoid scratches and twisting. The SKS Mud-X is 12″ long by 5″ wide and only weights 90g.

SKS Mud-X light dirtboard

SKS Mud-X on the down tube

While both of these mudguards are easy to clean once you get home, there is an easy way to keep mud from sticking to your fenders in the first place—just coat the bottom of the fenders with PAM no-stick cooking spray before you go out for a ride. The PAM will wear off after every ride, but it does an incredible job of keeping the mud and/or snow from sticking to your fenders!

The SKS Grand M.O.M. mudguard retails for $30, and the SKS Mud-X sells for only $9. You should be able to pick these up at your local bike shop—if they don’t have them in stock they can easily order them for you. If all else fails, you can always order them from Amazon.com.

 

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Creating A Road Bike To Handle Foul Weather

Riding in foul weather is really hard on your bike. In my area of the country it’s not the snow that bothers you, but all the junk that goes along with it. Every winter our roads turn white—not from the snow but from numerous layers of road salt (on a quiet night you can sit in your garage and listen to your car rust). The highway department also uses a lot of sand to give motorists better traction on icy roads. Salt and sand will eat through all the components on your bike, even if you wash it off after each ride. I also spend a lot of time riding in the rain and that can be just as hard on a bike. It’s not the water falling from the sky that hurts your bike—it’s all of the grit and road grime that splashes up on your chain, cables, brakes, derailleurs and crankset.

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Last week I had the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) rebuild my old Trek 1200 road bike. By rebuild I mean they replaced everything except the frame, handlebars and headset. The sad fact is that I could have bought a new Trek Madone for what the overhaul cost, but I already have a Madone and what I really need is a great bike for riding in foul weather.

The Trek 1200 is an aluminum frame road bike with Shimano Tiagra components that I bought back in 2005. The Tiagra product line is on the lower end of Shimano’s shop quality parts and is best suited for “advanced recreational” riders (still better than anything you will find at the “big box” stores). I was able to get over 10,000 miles out of these components, and most of that was in bad weather. Unfortunately, road salt had eaten through the chrome plating on all the components. Since the Trek 1200 has a lifetime warranty on the frame I decided to keep it and build a “new” bike with higher quality components that could withstand the harsh conditions I often ride in.

The biggest expense on this overhaul was the Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Hub Geared (SG-S700). The hub has a much wider gear ratio than the Alfine 8 found on two of my other bikes, so I decided to go with a single gear in the front and installed a Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T). The Alfine 11 weights a bit less than the Alfine 8, but it is nearly twice the price. Since all the gears are internal I don’t have to worry about salt, sand, road grime or rust. My old shifters were not compatible with the Alfine hub so they put Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters on (at the moment Shimano does not make an 11-speed shifter for drop bars).

If you ride in bad weather your brake pads will end up having grit embedded in them and this can wear down bike rims rather quickly. The original rims on my 1200 had worm down, so we went with new Mavic Open Sport rims and used brass nipples on the spokes (better for wet weather). Since the front rim was going to be replaced they dropped in a new Shimano 105 front hub (a higher quality hub than the original). Both the front and rear brakes on the 1200 were pretty well-worn, so new Shimano caliper brakes were installed. The Continental Touring Plus road bike tires I had on the bike were still in good shape, so I didn’t change them out.

Finishing touches included Lizard Skins DuraSoft Polymer Handlebar Tape. This handlebar tape is not only extremely comfortable, but offers incredible grip in wet weather (remember, this is going on a bike that is only used in foul weather). I also had Gore Ride-On Derailleur Cables installed. These sealed cables are maintenance free and shift smoother than anything else I’ve ever tried.

Was the cost of the rebuild worth it? It’s too early to tell yet. However, when I got home from my first long ride after the overhaul my bike frame and all the components were covered with road salt. It had snowed the day before and by the time I went out the road salt had been ground to powder by highway traffic and even something as light as my bike kicked up a lot of dust. This layer of dust (salt) reminded me of why I needed to have the bike “weatherproofed” in the first place.

 

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Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover

I try to not let the weather dictate when I ride my bike. When the temperature drops or it starts raining I just make adjustments to my clothing and go out for a ride anyway. One item you really need to own for inclement weather riding is a good helmet cover, and my favorite one is the Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover (H-Cover).

Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover for rain and winter

Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is made of a very breathable Stopzone fabric and it does a fantastic job of blocking both wind and rain. This cover stretches to fit all the helmets I own (Bell, Trek, Louis Garneau and a Giro). You might have tried other helmet covers before, but most of the covers on the market that I’ve tried don’t fit my helmet very well. Last year I bought an illumiNITE Helmet Cover and the best I can tell it was patterned after my grandmother’s shower cap—I don’t know who designed it, but they apparently had never seen a bicycle helmet before.

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is available in two colors: Black or Bright Yellow (Hi-Vis Yellow). Both colors of this helmet have reflective piping to help motorists see you in low-light situations. I wear the bright yellow cover when I am riding on the road because it is hard for drivers to miss. When I am riding on muddy off-road trails I wear the black helmet cover because it will still look good after I wipe the mud off.

With a good balaclava (like the Seirus Combo Clava) and the Louis Garneau helmet cover I have no trouble keeping my head warm in temperatures down to around 20 degrees. When the temperature drops to below 20 degrees I switch over to a skiing helmet (I prefer the Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet).

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is available in two sizes: Small/Medium and Medium/Large. This helmet cover retails for around $20 and I have yet to find a better helmet cover on the market.

 

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Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants for rain and bad weather

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants

You might not love riding in the rain, but if your training schedule forces your out in it very often you need to pick up a pair of Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants. These pants are breathable, windproof, waterproof and they have kept me dry in torrential downpours on days when no one in their right mind would be outside.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants are made of a three-layer thermo-regulating laminate fabric. This breathable fabric is 50 percent polyester, 32 percent nylon, and 18 percent nylon. You will find abrasion patches in high wear areas that should keep you from ripping these pants like I’ve done with cheaper rain pants. These pants are sturdy enough for both road and trail use. Since riding in the rain almost always means low-visibility, these pants have 360° reflective elements that really stand out when light hits them. The asymmetrical leg cuffs should keep you from getting your pants caught in the crank. There is also a side adjustable waistband to help you get a good fit. All of the internal seams are taped and totally waterproof.

We need to talk about the fit around the ankles for a moment. These pants have nine-inch waterproof ankle zippers so they will fit over cycling shoes and shoe covers with ease. However, there is not enough room to wear these pants with the cuff on the outside of heavy winter boots. This could cause a problem if plan on wearing these pants as a winter shell—they will do great most of the time, but if you have to walk through deep snow then you could find yourself with wet feet after a while.

If you are looking for the perfect waterproof shoe covers to go with these pants, I would suggest the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover. If you need warm winter shoe covers, I would suggest the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants have a retail price of $225, but they are available on Amazon.com for around $160. These pants will probably be one of the most expensive pieces of cycling wear you will ever buy, but they should give you many years of use. This product comes with a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. In case you were wondering, the P.R.O. in the name stand for Performance Race Optimized.

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover For Rainy Day Bike Rides

The Chicago area normally has snow on the ground by this time of year, but so far we just keep getting rain! Riding in the rain is one of my least favorite ways to cycle. However, great products like the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover make these rides a lot more enjoyable than they would otherwise be.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover for rainy day bike rides

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover is designed for riding in rainy weather and they work incredibly well! Though they are fleece lined, they are not really intended for cold weather cycling. On a sunny day when the temperature is around 50 degrees you probably wouldn’t even want to use a shoe cover to keep your feet warm (a pair of toe covers will do). However, a rain day with a temperature of 50 degrees can just about freeze you all the way to your bones. If you are wanting to keep your feet dry in the rain, then these covers are for you. If you are looking for a great shoe cover for winter cycling, I would recommend the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

The Elite Barrier MTB shoe cover is made of 48% neoprene, 24% polyester, 17% nylon, 7% polyurethane, and 2% spandex. The sole is made of a very durable Kevlar so you should not have any trouble walking with this cover on your shoes. This cover also has reflective elements (the Pearl Izumi logo) for low-light visibility. These shoe covers have fairly tall cuffs so they will easily fit under your pant legs if you are riding with rain pants on.

These shoe covers are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL). While they are true to size, I would order one size larger than normal just to make them easier to get on. The Velcro strip on the back is very easy to adjust. Like most Pearl Izumi products, this shoe cover is extremely well made and designed.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover retails for $70, but online retailers like Amazon.com often have it at a considerable discount (I paid $57 for my pair). This product is recommended for mountain bike shoes. If you want a similar cover for your road shoes you should use the Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WXB Shoe Covers.

 

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The North Face TNF Apex Gloves

If you ride your bike the rain you really need to buy a pair of The North Face TNF Apex Gloves. While these gloves are not cycling-specific, they will do what very few cycling gloves can, i.e., keep your hands warm and dry in the pouring rain.

The North Face TNF Apex Gloves

The North Face TNF Apex Gloves

The North Face TNF Apex Gloves are the best gloves I’ve ever owned for riding in the rain. They are highly water-resistant, breathable and windproof. The first time I rode with these glove the temperature was around 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) and the rain didn’t let up during the entire three-hour ride. I was simply amazed at how comfortable my hands were during the ride—they were warm, but they never got wet and there was no moisture build-up in the gloves when I got home.

The shell for this glove is made of TNF™ Apex ClimateBlock with DWR (durable water-repellent). The interior lining is brushed tricot. The palm has silicone grippers that are fantastic for allowing you to grip the handlebars even in a heavy downpour—I don’t know of any cycling glove that has as good a grip in the rain.

Since The North Face TNF Apex Gloves are not specifically made for cyclists they do have three slight problems. First, you will not find a strip of terry cloth on the thumb to wipe off your sweat. More importantly, they do not have any padding in the palms. However, even after several hours in the saddle with these gloves my hands did not go numb. In addition, they lack any reflective piping like you would normally see on winter cycling gloves.

These gloves are available in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and The North Face has a sizing chart available on their Website (see link above). The gloves seem to be true to size, but I would suggest you get them in one size larger than you normally wear just to allow a little more air to circulate around your fingers.

You will probably not find The North Face TNF Apex Gloves at any bike shop, but they are available at most sporting good stores, like Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and REI. These gloves retail for around $40, but you can buy them from online merchants like Amazon.com for around $28.

 

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